OVER the years there have been thousands of Scottish footballers who would have swapped everything for the career Ally Dick had. How many others played for two of the great clubs, Tottenham Hotspur and Ajax Amsterdam? How many have a European medal to match the silverware Dick was handed for playing in the 1984 Uefa Cup? Fewer still can talk of the afternoon they pulled on a Scotland shirt and ran out to illuminate Wembley stadium.

Dick did all of that. Anyone who follows Scottish football and is older than about 35 will remember him. He is frozen in time as an impossibly boyish, skinny, long-haired left winger who burned on to our retinas at Wembley on June 7, 1980. It was a Saturday afternoon and the England versus Scotland schoolboy international fixture was shown live on BBC1. Back then everyone watched. Scotland won 5-4 and Dick was electrifying, the most exciting 15-year-old Scottish player we had seen.

By the time he was 16 he had become the youngest first team Spurs player in the club's history, a record that stood for 27 years until earlier this season. Johan Cruyff was the manager who signed him for Ajax. This doesn't sound like wasted potential, does it? It doesn't sound like anyone needs to sigh over how it all went wrong for Ally Dick.

But Dick never did become the star we thought we were watching that afternoon at Wembley. Injuries took their toll and he slipped out of our thoughts. He had a fine career but not an exceptional one, and he never again captivated us the way he had at Wembley. In the 1970s Peter Marinello ("the next George Best") was Scotland's great unrealised talent. At the start of the 1980s it was Dick. They didn't win a Scotland cap between them.

Dick didn't "go off the tracks".

Essentialy it was injuries which did for him. When he was the subject of media hyperventilating in 1980 few would have imagined that he would never go on to play for his country. Dick was flagged up as a potential superstar from the very start and that permanently affected how the rest of his career was perceived. Most of us unfairly remember him as a player who never really made it, not one who had a more distinguished career than most.

"The exposure can either work for you or it can work against you," Dick once said. It is the prospect of the latter which has made Rangers jittery about John Fleck. A month ago we were wondering what had happened to Fleck, why he hadn't built on his appearance as a 16-year-old in last season's Scottish Cup final. Now, after just 365 minutes of competitive football against St Johnstone, Falkirk (twice), Aberdeen and Dundee United, even David Beckham has been asked about him. He has been in the tabloids for being in a nightclub, underage, as people he was with were involved in a brawl. Steven Whittaker has been nudged towards describing him as Rangers' Wayne Rooney. Really? If that parallel is valid then Rangers will be selling Fleck for £31 million at the end of next season, when he will be the age Rooney was when he moved from Everton to Manchester United.

Why can't Fleck just be a very exciting prospect? Why does the expectation and the adulation have to be so extreme, to the extent he is instantly bracketed with the greatest young British player of his generation? Fleck doesn't need this, nor do Rangers and nor does Scotland manager George Burley, who would prefer the peace to let him develop into a potential full international.

It's our fault: the newspapers, the radio stations and the television channels. Fleck has barely kicked a ball and the media is all over him. He has been bright, assured, prominent, thrilling in flashes, not yet sensational. But man-of-the-match awards are being rushed at him and we are relentlessly asking Walter Smith and Ally McCoist about him, asking team-mates about him, asking opponents about him and, yes, writing columns about him. It is the sort of claustrophobic scrutiny which does nothing to help his talent breathe and blossom. It is too late to stop the juggernaut. The media needs readers, listeners and viewers and Fleck is currently the hot name that can help deliver them.

It's down to Rangers now. When Ryan Giggs exploded on to the scene Sir Alex Ferguson didn't let him do interviews until he was 20. The hype cooled to a manageable level and Giggs became the player we thought Dick could be. At Ibrox they need to build a wall around Fleck, and mould him into a professional, so that everyone can take a long, deep breath and let him show how good he can become. Handling Fleck is going to be as big a test for Rangers as it is for their opponents.

Talking of McCoist, if Rangers happen to cock things up in the Scottish Cup against Forfar it'll be his fault. That's the way they're doing things at Ibrox: when it comes to the Scottish Cup Smith hands his assistant the managerial reins and lets him do the preparation, the team-talks and so on.

It started last season against East Stirlingshire. Rangers won 6-0. On Friday McCoist was asked if he remembered how he had inspired his troops to such a momentous triumph. "I can't remember my first team-talk but it was Churchillian.

"Not Winston, I mean that wee dog in the TV adverts..."